January 25, 2012 at 1:00 am

Got bacon? DMC docs find pork cures rare nosebleeds

Mmmm, bacon! The salty, fatty rashers, often served with eggs, recently had a culinary awakening and began showing up covered in chocolate, infused in liquors and atop cupcakes.

But it's not just foodies who are raving about bacon. It is now being embraced by doctors, who are hailing pork strips as a treatment for rare, life-threatening nosebleeds.

Thanks to the work of four physicians at the Detroit Medical Center, the discovery came while they were treating a 4-year-old child with Glanzmann thrombasthenia, a rare genetic platelet disorder, on two occasions.

The child, who was admitted to DMC Children's Hospital of Michigan about a year ago, initially underwent surgery, received blood transfusions and other medical interventions while in the intensive care unit. But they were unable to stop her nose bleeding after more than a week, according to Dr. Ian Humphreys, a DMC ear, nose and throat surgeon.

The doctors could have used other medical and surgical options, but those came with high risks, including blindness.

One of the physicians, Dr. Walter Belenky, recalled a recommendation he had read in a surgical field manual while in the military: use pork to stop bleeding.

"It wasn't very well described, (and) there was not great science behind it," Humphreys said. "It was something a field medic could try to use as a temporizing measure before advanced medical therapies."

The doctors went to a local market and bought a block of cured salt pork, cut it into strips to fit the patient's nasal cavities and monitored her.

"We saw a dramatic turnaround in her overall medical condition," Humphreys said. "Her bleeding immediately stopped. She was able to go home within 72 hours of the pork being placed in her nose."

A few months later, the child slipped and bumped her nose and returned to the hospital. This time, they immediately used the pork in her naval cavities and were able to discharge the child within 48 hours.

"It was interesting that it worked effectively and as quickly as it did," Humphreys said.

The findings were published in The Annals of Otology, Rhinology & Laryngology, and were described as the first time pork nasal packing was used to stop bleeding in patients with rare nosebleed disorders.

Humphreys stressed that this treatment is not intended to supplant traditional or contemporary treatments. He also said it should not be used by lay people.

"There is a risk of bacterial and perhaps parasitic infection with raw meats, such as pork, being placed in the nose," Humphreys said. "But when used in conjunction with medical personnel, antibiotics and expert knowledge and experience, we showed in this particular case that it was safe and that it was effective."

The research was published this week in the Annals of Improbable Research, a science humor magazine that also gives annual awards for research that makes people laugh and think.

"And they say hot dogs are bad for you," joked Humphreys.


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